2017 Trade Value: #1 to #10

The comparisons to Alex Rodriguez are neither fair nor entirely misplaced.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Welcome to the final installment of this year’s Trade Value series; you can find links to the previous five posts above. If you’re not familiar with this project, there’s an explanation of the process in the HM post, so that’s the best place to start.

As a reminder for those who don’t like clicking links, however, the five-year WAR projections are based on Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS forecasts, though the players aren’t ranked based on those projections; these figures are included merely as a piece of information to help round out the picture. The guaranteed-dollars line measures the amount of money the player is owed outside of team options or arbitration years; for most of these guys, team options are very likely to be exercised, and many of them will end up making more than the guaranteed-dollars number reports.

Now let’s turn our attention to today’s top 10. In reality, this ended up being two groups of five, with plenty of room for movement within those two groups. And at the very top of the list was the toughest call I’ve ever had to make in putting this project together. The amount of great young talent in the game right now is simply remarkable.

Just as a note: I’ll be chatting about this list at 12 p.m. ET, so if you have any questions, feel free to swing by and I’ll answer as many as I can. Now, on to the top 10.

Team Control WAR Total +19.4
Guaranteed Dollars $23.5 M
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #18
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 32 +5.4 $10.5 M
2019 33 +5.0 $13.0 M
2020 34 +4.5 $13.5 M
2021 35 +4.5 $14.0 M
Team Option

Corey Kluber was already amazing. He might actually be getting better, though. His strikeout rate has jumped from 26% to 34%. His ground-ball rate is at a career high, but so is his infield-fly rate. He still throttles contact quality. With the way he’s pitching now, he’s in that next tier of non-Kershaw starters. He’s everything you want in an ace.

And, thanks to his contract, he’s the most valuable hurler in the game. Assuming his options get picked up — he’d basically need a career-ending injury not to merit those salaries — he’ll make around $50 million over the next four years. There are some non-public escalators on the options based on Cy Young voting, so it might be more like $55 million.

That’s Josh Reddick money. It’s Mark Trumbo’s AAV, plus an extra year. Fifty million dollars doesn’t buy that much in free agency these days, but it does get Cleveland the best right-handed pitcher in the AL — and with reduced risk in case an injury takes Kluber out before the deal expires.

As with any pitcher, he could lose all of his value overnight. At 31, he might start getting worse soon. There’s a reason the nine guys ahead of him are all hitters. Those guys just don’t get hurt at the same frequency, so it’s tough for a pitcher to get much higher than this. But given what Kluber is now, he’s the pitcher I’d most want in my organization.

Team Control WAR Total +17.4
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank #7
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 25 +6.0 Arb1
2019 26 +5.8 Arb2
2020 27 +5.6 Arb3
Arb

It’s getting harder to remember, but just a few years ago, Mookie Betts was a pretty polarizing player. The slight stature and lack of power didn’t scream superstar upside, but Mookie has developed into a better player than even his most ardent supporters would have suspected. Now coming off an +8 WAR season, Betts is firmly entrenched as one of the game’s best.

And as pitchers adjust to Mookie as an offensive threat, he continues to evolve, gradually returning to a more patient approach after spending the last few years swinging more frequently to establish that he did, indeed, have power. Now with more walks than strikeouts, but still slugging the ball, Betts has built the offensive profile of a guy who can remain a great player even if the defense slips as he ages.

The one remaining flaw at this point is his pop-up problem. His total of 22 infield flies leads the majors, and it’s the primary reason he’s running a .261 BABIP; all those easy outs have dragged down his offensive numbers this year. Given that Betts has fixed nearly every other flaw in his game to this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if he figured out how to address this one, too.

He only falls a few spots this year because he’s marching towards free agency. After rebuffing an attempt by the Red Sox to get him signed to a long-term deal this winter, Betts has just his three arbitration years left, and he sounds like a guy willing to go year-to-year in order to get to free agency as early as possible. He’s still a guy every team in baseball would love to have, but he doesn’t look like a guy anyone could count on keeping past the 2020 season, so it’s more short- and medium-term value than long-term value. But few players in baseball will provide more value over the next three-and-a-half years, and the bidding for Betts would be bananas if the Red Sox were willing to listen on their star right fielder.

Team Control WAR Total +21.1
Guaranteed Dollars $19.0 M
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #6
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 28 +5.7 $7.0 M
2019 29 +5.4 $12.0 M
2020 30 +5.0 $16.5 M
2021 31 +5.0 $16.5 M
Team Option

I don’t know that it’s possible for a Cub to be underrated at this point. But if any Cub is underrated, it’s Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant has the MVP award, Kyle Schwarber the postseason hero narrative, and David Ross got all the fuzzy veteran-leader credit anyone could ever be awarded. But make no mistake: Rizzo is an elite player.

Over the last three years, Rizzo has put up seasonal WARs of +5.7, +5.5, +5.5. He’s on pace for a down year of +4.6 WAR this year, thanks to a .242 BABIP. Assuming that bounces up some in the second half, he may still end up over +5 WAR for the fourth straight year. There are few players as consistently awesome as Anthony Rizzo.

Sure, maybe he’s not hitting like Freddie Freeman has over the last year, and he doesn’t have quite the all-around game of Paul Goldschmidt, but when you factor in contracts, Rizzo is the most valuable first baseman in the game. Due just $52 million over the next four years, he and Kluber are basically playing out the same contract, just he doesn’t have the risks that come with pitching for a living. As safe a bet as you’ll get for high-level production at a low cost, Rizzo is one of the main reasons the Cubs’ future still scares everyone.

Five-Year WAR +21.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 25 +4.4 Pre-Arb
2019 26 +4.4 Arb1
2020 27 +4.3 Arb2
2021 28 +4.3 Arb3
2022 29 +4.2 Arb4
Pre-Arb
Arb

It really is remarkable that Turner managed to put up +5 WAR in his first year’s worth of games in the majors, given that he spent about half that time playing a position at which he had almost no experience and still isn’t really a finished product as a hitter. This is what unpolished Trea Turner looks like. It’s scary to imagine what he might be if he gets better.

Of course, his physical skills might diminish before he figures out the strike zone, and maybe the power never grows, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get better defensively. Improvement is never guaranteed. But baseline Turner is already an excellent player, and yet there are obvious areas where he could make real improvements. It doesn’t seem completely preposterous to suggest that, on pure upside, Turner might have one of the highest ceilings in the game.

The fact that there are so many rough edges to his game mean that there’s more risk here than with almost any of the other players in this top 10, but value is a balance of risk and reward, and Turner’s optimistic outcomes are so good that it makes the downside worthwhile. And with five years of control after this season, there’s plenty of remaining long-term value. If he takes any more steps forward over the next year, he’ll be a legitimate challenger for one of the top spots on next year’s list.

Five-Year WAR +20.9
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 26 +4.2 Pre-Arb
2019 27 +4.1 Pre-Arb
2020 28 +4.3 Arb1
2021 29 +4.3 Arb2
2022 30 +4.0 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

On the one hand, it’s half a season, and no one saw this coming. Consider, for example, what passed for an optimistic scouting report on the Yankees’ right fielder, from Eric Longenhagen’s offseason prospect list for the Yankees, on which Judge was ranked fifth:

While strikeouts are likely to be a career-long aspect of Judge’s profile, he’s shown an ability to make adjustments, and the quality of his contact is great when he’s making it. I have a future 50 on the hit tool and think he’ll get to his power in games, torching out 30 homers at peak with good defense in right field and some value on the bases. He projects as a low-risk, above-average regular.

This was Eric conveying that he was higher on Judge than many others; he ranked the Fresno State product 29 spots higher than Baseball America did on their top-100 list, for instance. And yet, “30 homers at peak” was still part of the report written by a guy who liked Judge more than most.

Judge, of course, hit 30 homers in the first half of his rookie year. Given his size and how hard he hits the baseball, it doesn’t seem crazy to project him for 40-plus homers annually. It’s hard to reconcile the guy we’ve seen in New York this year with the guy the scouting reports suggested, and any time there’s this kind of divergence between what people have seen previously and what we’ve seen in a short sample, it’s wise to not rely solely on what we’ve seen.

But what we’ve seen is so spectacular that I can’t imagine Judge ranking any lower than this. He legitimately looks like a guy who might already be one of the best right fielders in baseball and could become the most recognizable player in the sport. For most fans, the game is the attraction, but Judge looks like the rare athlete who could legitimately change the level of interest in his team by himself. We haven’t really seen anything like him before.

If he were a few years younger, or if we had more than three months of this kind of dominance, he might rank No. 1. And long term, his size might become a durability issue: big guys have generally had health problems in MLB, and Judge is about the biggest big guy we’ve seen. But that is nitpicking. Right now, Judge looks like he’s redefined what 80 power in the majors actually is. Combined with his other skills, there’s legitimate superstar potential here. And he might have already reached it.

Team Control WAR Total +24.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #5
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 24 +5.8 Pre-Arb
2019 25 +5.8 Arb1
2020 26 +6.2 Arb2
2021 27 +6.2 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

For the last couple of months, Lindor hasn’t been very good. Since the beginning of May, he’s hit .231/.285/.388, good for a 75 wRC+, in nearly 300 plate appearances. That’s a long slump, and I understand why his recent performance might cause one to rethink his overall value.

But just as it’s important to remember what we thought of Aaron Judge a few months ago, it’s important to look at the whole picture with Lindor, and what we have overall is a 23-year-old shortstop who has already produced nearly +13 WAR in just over two full seasons worth of action. Despite his recent struggles, Lindor remains a spectacularly talented player.

Selling out for power hasn’t worked for him this year, but if it keeps not working, we should expect that at some point he’ll revert back to his prior approach, taking his line drives and high average instead of trying to maximize his home-run total. And that version of Lindor, combined with his elite defense and quality baserunning, was one of the best all-around players in the game.

He probably won’t ever be the best-hitting shortstop in the game, but few can match Lindor’s overall value, especially players this age. Even with a rough couple of months, Lindor remains one of baseball’s brightest young stars, and Cleveland will happily keep him for at least the next four years.

Team Control WAR Total +23.8
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #3
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 26 +6.0 Arb1
2019 27 +5.9 Arb2
2020 28 +5.9 Arb3
2021 29 +5.9 Arb4
Arb

A couple of years ago, Bryant looked fairly similar to Judge: a high-K/high-power guy who was more athletic than most players with similar offensive profiles and who provided a lot of value with his overall game. But just two years into his big-league career, he’s all but gotten rid of his primary flaw, as he’s now striking out less often than the average hitter. Whether this change helped him stave off an inevitable BABIP regression, or was the cause of the one that has come, isn’t something we can know for sure, but Bryant’s offensive profile looks more sustainable now than it did during his rookie season.

The only things holding down his trade value are his future costs. He already set the record for single year pre-arbitration salary, and if he goes through the arbitration system year to year, he’ll likely smash some more records. With Rookie of the Year and MVP awards already in his trophy case, he can make the same “special case” arguments that helped Tim Lincecum and Ryan Howard reset the arbitration baselines, and as a Super Two, he’s going to get four chances at record raises. If he keeps playing at a high level, it’s entirely possible he could be making $30 million by the time he finishes with arbitration.

Whatever he gets through arbitration, he’ll be worth more than that, since the system is designed to be a drag on young-player salaries. But Bryant is probably going to be the most expensive of these young guys who haven’t signed long-term extensions yet. And considering his signing bonus and how well he’s set up for arbitration, there isn’t much incentive for him to sign a long-term deal that gives up any free-agent years.

But it’s still four years of one of the very best players in baseball. Even if he’s expensive by relative standards, everyone would happily line up to be the one cutting that check.

Team Control WAR Total +22.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #4
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 24 +5.4 Pre-Arb
2019 25 +5.5 Arb1
2020 26 +5.7 Arb2
2021 27 +5.7 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

This is where it got particularly difficult. The differences between the top three are absurdly small. You can’t go wrong with any of these guys. There is no wrong order here; it just comes down to preference.

And Corey Seager is unquestionably awesome. If this was a what-they’ve-done-so-far exercise, Seager might be No. 1. He’s put up over +12 WAR in less than two season’s worth of playing time and he’s 23. I know, based on the conversation considering last year’s ranking, that a lot of you guys think he belongs at the top of the list — or, at least, at the top of the young-guy tier.

But once again, when I ran this by my friends in the game, the general consensus was that Seager is just a tick behind the two guys ahead of him. The bat is special, but he’s probably the least physically athletic guy in the top five, and there remains skepticism about his actual value at shortstop. While the public defensive metrics like his work at shortstop, more than one person pointed out that the Dodgers pitching staff induces the weakest contact of any group in the game, and suggested that our models are attributing to Seager some value that actually belongs to the Dodgers’ pitchers.

Everyone agrees Seager is a legitimate franchise player, but there remains some thought that he’s more of a super-high-floor guy and doesn’t quite possess the upside of the two guys ahead of him on this list. And for whatever it’s worth, ZiPS is in agreement with the industry on this one. Seager is a fantastic player, but enough people think this is close enough to his peak that he only rises one spot on this year’s list, despite performing well enough to move higher. If he continues to prove the skeptics wrong for another 12 months, he’ll certainly be considered for the top spot again next year.

Team Control WAR Total +25.7
Guaranteed Dollars $99.8 M
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank #1
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 26 +9.0 $33.3 M
2019 27 +8.5 $33.3 M
2020 28 +8.2 $33.3 M

Yeah, it finally happened. For the first time since 2011, Mike Trout is not atop this list. Or, to put it another way, the last time Trout wasn’t No. 1 in this series, he was in Double-A.

He remains, of course, the best player in baseball, and not by a small margin. He impacts the game like no one else. He has at least a chance to go down as the best baseball player of all-time.

But as we are regularly reminded when we see All-Stars traded for guys in A-ball, trade value is more complex than a player’s present abilities. Age matters. Salary matters. Years of control matter. And while Mike Trout is the best player on the planet, he’s also due $100 million over the next three years, and then he’ll hit free agency looking for the kind of contract that only a few teams will even be willing to consider.

Realistically, it’s hard for anyone to see Trout as a long-term asset anymore. You get three-and-a-half historic seasons, and then you probably watch him leave. And since the teams that could afford to give up the kind of talent it would take to get him are all luxury-tax payers who have been over the limit for years, they’d end up paying something closer to $50 million per year to have him on their rosters, or else they’d be looking at dumping another quality player to reduce their luxury-tax payments.

Even with all that, he was still almost No. 1. This was nearly a coin flip. I’m sure a good chunk of the people reading this, including people who actually would have to make a decision like this, would just say “I’ll take the best player alive and worry about the rest later.” And I almost would, too.

But there’s a new kid in town with whom everyone is also in love, and is in the midst of a Trout-like season of his own, and fits in every team in baseball’s payroll. So, with all due respect to the greatest all-around player I’ve ever seen, the new King of Trade Value is…

Team Control WAR Total +25.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #2
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 23 +5.3 Pre-Arb
2019 24 +6.4 Arb1
2020 25 +6.7 Arb2
2021 26 +6.7 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

The A-Rod comparisons are unfair, but with what Correa is doing this year, they also don’t look completely insane. In his age-20 to -22 seasons, Rodriguez posted a 138 wRC+; Correa currently stands at 135. The breakout that everyone’s been expecting looks like it is here, and with his 161 wRC+ so far this season, Correa has officially become a superstar.

Now, before we say too much, I should note that those ZiPS projections aren’t as rosy as they were a year ago, when the system was forecasting Correa to surpass Trout as the best player in baseball in a few years. Dan Szymborski made some adjustments to his model over the winter, and the result was a bit more conservative forecasts for elite young players — Seager’s projections are also worse this year than last year — so Correa is no longer expected to quite reach Trout’s level.

But a +7 WAR forecast is still pretty amazing and speaks to the rarity of Correa’s offensive abilities at this age. His power development has made him an elite hitter for any position, but he’s also improved enough defensively that no one is talking about moving him off shortstop anymore. So for the foreseeable future, the Astros have a guy who hits like a first baseman playing shortstop.

The industry adores Correa. As I noted last year, when I polled people in the game on the Correa-versus-Seager question, the answers overwhelmingly come down in Correa’s favor. The same was true this year. Correa’s monster first half isn’t seen as just a nice stretch; people have been expecting this to happen. This is what people thought was coming. No one is surprised that Correa has turned into one of the best hitters in the American League, even though he’s still just 22.

And, of course, there’s the contract. Even with generous arbitration estimates, he’s probably looking at something in the $40 to $45 million range over the next four years. So not only does he provide an extra year that Trout does not, he also gives you roughly $60 million to spend on someone else. And because he hasn’t yet landed that made-for-life contract, an acquiring team have a few years to talk him into signing a deal that buys out some free-agent seasons, potentially giving them some longer-term value as well.

So, by the slimmest of margins, Carlos Correa is our new most valuable player in baseball when contracts are included in the discussion. There’s a reason the Astros are so good right now. Their shortstop is the biggest one.

2017 Trade Value, 1-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
1 2 Carlos Correa 22 +5.3
Pre-Arb
+6.4
Arb1
+6.7
Arb2
+6.7
Arb3
2 1 Mike Trout 25 +9.0
$33.3 M
+8.5
$33.3 M
+8.2
$33.3 M
3 4 Corey Seager 23 +5.4
Pre-Arb
+5.5
Arb1
+5.7
Arb2
+5.7
Arb3
4 3 Kris Bryant 25 +6.0
Arb1
+5.9
Arb2
+5.9
Arb3
+5.9
Arb4
5 5 Francisco Lindor 23 +5.8
Pre-Arb
+5.8
Arb1
+6.2
Arb2
+6.2
Arb3
6 Aaron Judge 25 +4.2
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Pre-Arb
+4.3
Arb1
+4.3
Arb2
+4.0
Arb3
7 Trea Turner 24 +4.4
Pre-Arb
+4.4
Arb1
+4.3
Arb2
+4.3
Arb3
+4.2
Arb4
8 6 Anthony Rizzo 27 +5.7
$7.0 M
+5.4
$12.0 M
+5.0
$16.5 M
+5.0
$16.5 M
9 7 Mookie Betts 24 +6.0
Arb1
+5.8
Arb2
+5.6
Arb3
10 18 Corey Kluber 31 +5.4
$10.5 M
+5.0
$13.0 M
+4.5
$13.5 M
+4.5
$14.0 M
11 Cody Bellinger 21 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+4.4
Arb1
+4.4
Arb2
+4.6
Arb3
12 Gary Sanchez 24 +4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Pre-Arb
+4.4
Arb1
+4.4
Arb2
+4.5
Arb3
13 50 Carlos Martinez 25 +4.2
$11.5 M
+4.3
$11.5 M
+4.4
$11.5 M
+4.4
$11.5 M
+3.9
$17.5 M
14 Freddie Freeman 27 +4.5
$21.0 M
+4.4
$21.0 M
+4.3
$22.0 M
+4.3
$22.0 M
15 Jose Ramirez 24 +3.8
$2.4 M
+3.8
$3.8 M
+3.9
$6.2 M
+3.9
$9.0 M
+4.1
$11.0 M
16 21 Chris Archer 28 +4.1
$6.3 M
+3.9
$7.5 M
+3.8
$9.0 M
+3.8
$11.0 M
17 19 Buster Posey 30 +5.1
$21.4 M
+4.6
$21.4 M
+4.1
$21.4 M
+4.1
$21.4 M
+3.5
$22.0 M
18 30 George Springer 27 +3.5
Arb2
+3.4
Arb3
+3.2
Arb4
19 Willson Contreras 25 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
20 Michael Conforto 24 +3.8
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Arb1
+3.7
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
21 15 Chris Sale 28 +6.1
$12.5 M
+6.2
$15.0 M
22 Michael Fulmer 24 +3.7
Pre-Arb
+3.9
Arb1
+4.1
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
+3.7
Arb4
23 9 Paul Goldschmidt 29 +4.8
$11.0 M
+4.6
$14.5 M
24 13 Jose Altuve 27 +5.8
$6.0 M
+5.1
$6.5 M
25 32 Miguel Sano 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Arb1
+3.0
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
26 38 Andrew Benintendi 22 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Arb1
+3.1
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
27 23 Christian Yelich 25 +3.6
$7.0 M
+3.5
$9.8 M
+3.5
$12.5 M
+3.5
$14.0 M
+3.2
$15.0 M
28 27 Carlos Carrasco 30 +3.7
$8.0 M
+3.4
$9.0 M
+3.2
$9.5 M
29 40 Lance McCullers 23 +3.0
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+3.3
Arb3
+3.3
Arb4
30 49 Jon Gray 25 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Arb1
+3.6
Arb2
+3.6
Arb3
31 8 Nolan Arenado 26 +4.9
$17.8 M
+5.0
Arb4
32 16 Madison Bumgarner 27 +5.2
$12.0 M
+5.2
$12.0 M
33 Max Scherzer 32 +5.5
$15.0 M
+5.1
$35.0 M
+4.6
$35.0 M
+4.6
$35.0 M
34 12 Noah Syndergaard 24 +4.7
Arb1
+4.9
Arb2
+5.0
Arb3
+5.0
Arb4
35 Luis Severino 23 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+3.1
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
36 Jameson Taillon 25 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+2.2
Arb3
37 22 Jacob deGrom 29 +3.2
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
38 37 Alex Bregman 23 +3.5
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
+4.0
Arb3
39 Ender Inciarte 26 +3.7
$4.0 M
+3.5
$5.0 M
+3.4
$7.0 M
+3.4
$8.0 M
+3.3
$9.0 M
40 31 Addison Russell 23 +4.2
Arb1
+4.6
Arb2
+4.5
Arb3
+4.5
Arb4
41 26 Yoan Moncada 22 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
42 25 Jose Quintana 28 +3.8
$8.8 M
+3.8
$10.5 M
+3.6
$10.5 M
43 Robbie Ray 25 +3.4
Arb1
+3.5
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
44 Anthony Rendon 27 +4.4
Arb3
+4.2
Arb4
45 20 Xander Bogaerts 24 +3.8
Arb2
+3.6
Arb3
46 28 Jackie Bradley Jr. 27 +3.2
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
47 Marcus Stroman 26 +2.2
Arb2
+2.5
Arb3
+2.5
Arb4
48 James Paxton 28 +2.8
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
49 Aaron Nola 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
50 47 Jake Lamb 26 +2.6
Arb1
+2.7
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option

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tinmanryan
Member
tinmanryan

Wow! ZiPS forecasting full-season WAR projections for Judge substantially lower than what he has done in a *half* season. I know, regression analysis and all, but at some point doesn’t it become tempting to say “ZiPS is too slow to adjust”?

EDIT: Dave–great work as always. These are great every year.

Twitchy
Member
Twitchy

Judge is running a 426 BABIP. If you look at the past 5 years nobody has really been above 365. So the BA is going to come down since he’s unlikely to post 400+ BABIPs. And his 362 ISO is a bit high as well. Over the past 5 years (2012-2016) Stanton is the ISO leader at 277. So even if Judge is the best power hitter in the game, I’m not willing to believe that he’s nearly 100 points of ISO better than Stanton.

So there’s going to be some regression, as you suggest. Likely 40-60 points of BA, and likely 60-80 points of ISO at minimum. That’s probably why the ZIPS projections are lower than you’d expect.

ZIPS has his rest of season line at 261/351/543, which is a deeper regression than I suggested, but it does make some sense why he’s rated like that.

tinmanryan
Member
tinmanryan

I buy most of what you’re saying but, as you note, ZiPS forecasts substantially *depeer* regression. What i’m saying, is, “why are we defaulting to ZiPS?” It just looks like ZiPS is way too slow to respond in this instance.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

If we were “defaulting to Zips,” then Trea Turner and Anthony Rizzo would be ahead of him, right? Dave said that Zips is listed here for reference. It’s the only long-term projection system that FG has access to, so it is here for your convenience. Zips seems like a better thing to put here than just pulling something out of thin air.

Matt
Member
Member
Matt

The main reason Zips is listed here I think is that it’s one of the only forecasting systems that actually tries to project guys 5 years out.

tinmanryan
Member
tinmanryan

Not sure I understand the rizzo comparison. Radically different contract/control situation.

The Turner one is interesting though! The WAR projections are very similar, but Judge has one more pre-arb year. It looks to me like that one extra year nudged Judge over Turner. But are they really that close? Turner’s projected WAR actually matches what we are seeing now. Judge’s projection says he’s aboout 40-45% of what we are seeing now. How can that difference be justified ?

Twitchy
Member
Twitchy

Or maybe we’re all a little biased because Judge has looked amazing, and ZIPS is a splash of cold water telling us that while he’s still an All Star calibre player, he’s not the best player in the game going forward. We’ll find out if this is the case or not but I don’t think this is a case of ZIPS being slow to respond, but rather us overestimating Judge’s abilities based on what he’s done in a 3 month sample.

deltaclown
Member
deltaclown

I have no skin in the game, but the fact that the OP is being down voted for asking questions about baseball on a baseball website makes you all a buncha cocks.

Fan gaff
Member
Fan gaff

deleted

drewsylvania
Member
drewsylvania

Depends on what you think a downthumb means. Is it “disagree” or “doesn’t add to the discussion”? People have different opinions. Though I suspect a few of the downthumbers here didn’t solidly consider either option and went with groupthink.

emh1969
Member
emh1969

Agreed. At this point, we have no idea what Judge will be going forward.

In the first half of his rookie season, Mark McGwire put up a Judge-like triple slash line: .294/.383/.692.

But the second half he was down to: .284/.355/.537

And over the next 5 years he averaged only: .239/.355/.480.

It’s not that McGwire turned into a complete pumpkin. But he also wasn’t anywhere close to what he did those first three months.

carter
Member
carter

McGwire is actually one of the best comparisons out there for him. I am pretty certain everyone would be quite happy with that outcome, as the counting stats would be amazing in Yankee stadium, and a solid rf to boot.

Famous Mortimer
Member

So ZIPS is saying he’ll put up negative WAR for the rest of the season?

j-bones
Member
j-bones

don’t Judge’s top of the leaderboard batted ball numbers (exit velo, barrels, % over 95 mph, etc) mean we should expect a higher than normal BABIP? does anyone know just how much of an outlier his statcast numbers are historically, and whether we should expect an outlier BABIP?

YKnotDisco
Member
YKnotDisco

I recommend searching: Judge vs Bellinger: The Tale of the Tape

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

“Judge is running a 426 BABIP. If you look at the past 5 years nobody has really been above 365.”

If you look at the past 5 years nobody has really been 6′ 7″ and 280 pounds.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
Member

Not both, anyway.

bookbook
Member
bookbook

6’7″ guys who weigh 280 lbs should have bigger holes in their swing, not smaller. Judge is incredible, but keeping him down to #6 on this list isn’t an overabundance of caution.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

I’m not gonna lie, I think at the end of their careers (and perhaps even by the end of their rookie contracts) I think Sanchez is going to have a better career than Judge. But that’s mostly because I am a big believer in Sanchez…it’s unlikely Judge regresses to anything less than “above-average right fielder”. Even if this is his ceiling, what a ride.

drewsylvania
Member
drewsylvania

This. I don’t think we’ve ever seen someone with a 30% strikeout rate hit even .300 over a full season. We may be seeing it here. Judge is Ivan Drago: whatever he hits, he destroys.

And yet–BABIPs for this season’s elite hitters appear to be significantly higher than they were last year. I am not a statistician, so I can’t tell you how significantly. But if I’m right, then it may mean that Judge’s BABIP will stay very high (especially given his exit velocities). I suspect exit velocities among the players hitting well this season are also above each player’s normal. Which would mean that Judge’s .426 BABIP is probably unsustainably high–but not as “lucky” as we are used to considering such a high BABIP.

drewsylvania
Member
drewsylvania

But “holes in swing” doesn’t preclude exit velocity. And Judge is whiffing prodigiously. He’s also hitting the ball harder that anyone–which is a big component of BABIP.

Jaack
Member
Member
Jaack

There only have been 4 players in the last 70 years to manage a +.400 BABIP for even a single season, and Rod Carew topped out at .408. You have to go back to the 1890s to see .426 BABIPs sustained over 130+ games.

Aaron Judge is amazing, but don’t be stupid about it.

Yard Goat
Member
Yard Goat

There aren’t a lot of balls in play here. He hits a ton of homers. He strikes out a ton. And he walks a ton.

If my math is right, only 161 balls in play in 366 PAs (30 HRs, 61 BBs, 5 IBBs, 109 Ks). So even if his BABIP drops significantly (which I don’t see why it would since he hits the ball so hard), I don’t see a huge drop in value.

IF his BABIP were .350, it would have resulted in 13 fewer hits, which would give him a .286 avg. At .300 BABIP, his average is .259. With that power and walk rate, he’s still providing immense value.

Maybe the BB% isn’t sustainable (he had strong BB numbers in the minors, but not like THIS)- and maybe his K% creeps up past 30%. But it would take more than a BABIP regression to really put a dent in his WAR.

jdbolick
Member

Debbie Downer:

in the entire history of major league baseball there have been only ten full seasons by qualified hitters who exceeded a 30% HR/FB rate. Obviously, no one has ever exceeded 40%. So it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that a .426 BABIP and 41.7% HR/FB rate are going to regress massively.

Yard Goat
Member
Yard Goat

What Twitchy said.

BUT- What we are seeing is the 50% “baseline” projection here. I think any team trying to correctly value Aaron Judge at this point would run numerous scenarios (his BABIP drops to X, his HR/FB drops to Y, etc), and then the FO would have to decide what it thinks is most likely.

He’s unlike anyone we’ve seen. Projections systems don’t like that. Which is why scouting is still important- to confirm (or deny) what the statistics are telling us.

Remember: it only takes one team. So it’s not unreasonable that there is at least one team that would believe that, yes, while Judge’s BABIP and ISO may be up for some regression, it’s likely he outperforms what we previously thought was possible because he hits the ball harder than anyone in the Statcast era.

timprov
Member
timprov

On another level, it would be pretty ridiculous to trade for Judge now as a pure value proposition, because there’s essentially zero chance his perceived value could increase. He has the same problem as Trout – paying full price for him is all downside. They’re nice value for the team that developed them, but I’m not convinced they have as much trade value as that might indicate. If a trade can only meet expectations at best, a GM is going to be unlikely to make it.

Matt1685
Member
Matt1685

Neither has anybody hit the ball as hard as he has. I don’t think his BAPIP is really so far out of line. He has gotten lucky on some grounders, but he’s similarly gotten unlucky on some line drives. Look here: https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_hit_probability for an indication of how exit velocity affects average and wOBA, and removing the home runs, BABIP.

To me, an argument that Judge’s BABIP or HR per fly ball percentage should be considerably lower is an argument that Judge cannot maintain his hitting profile of extreme exit velocity and favorable launch angles. That may be true, but that is not the way the argument is generally presented. Instead it is presented that Judge’s BABIP is mostly a matter of favorable luck. Not so. The numbers will tell you otherwise, and the eye test will as well.

As far as your argument of no one being above .365 BABIP over the last 5 years, I counter with the fact that no one over that period has hit the ball the way Judge has. The same goes for his ISO.

One knows the strong correlation between exit velocity, launch angle and BABIP/ISO. What one does not know is if Judge can maintain this hitting profile, and perhaps what his BABIP/ISO equilibrium will be if he does maintain his hitting profile.

As for Judge compared to Stanton, I think a big difference is Judge’s ability to hit with extreme exit velocities at higher launch angles. I am not sure if this is true or not, but I’ve noticed that batters seem to tend to reach their maximum exit velocities between -10 and 10 degrees off horizontal. Judge has so far been able to consistently hit with extreme exit velocity (110 MPH+) at higher launch angles, producing better results. Whether this is a result of variance and small sample size or an ability Judge has that sets him apart from every other batter currently in the game, including Stanton, is something we will have to wait to find out. But I don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand as just statistical noise, which is what one is doing when one simply points to ISO and BABIP numbers and decides they are too far out of line with those of Stanton’s or any other player’s.

Twitchy
Member
Twitchy

You can admit that Judge hits the ball harder than most hitters while recognizing what he’s doing is basically only done by the best players in the history in the game. I’m not quite ready to suggest he’s that good. He hits the ball hard which is important, but there’s more to success than exit velocity and launch angle.

An aging Barry Bonds, when he was still putting up low 300 ISO, never had a HR:FB % above 30. Judge is at 41% right now. I think it’s reasonable to say that will drop, and that alone would cause a drop in his production (as even if some of those remain hits, they won’t be as valuable as HR).

I don’t think it’s realistic at all to say this is what Judge is based off of 3 months. Remember how great Gary Sanchez was a year ago? He looked like an absolute monster when he was putting up a 171 wRC+. But I mean these things generally aren’t sustainable, even if Judge has fantastic exit velocities. It means he’ll have a higher ceiling or floor when the regression hits, but it doesn’t mean that he’ll be the best player in baseball either.

Matt1685
Member
Matt1685

“He hits the ball hard which is important, but there’s more to success than exit velocity and launch angle.”

If Judge continues his current hitting profile he will end up with results not far off from what he’s had. However he manages that, whether voodoo, steroids, or hard work, once the ball leaves the bat from the distribution of launch angle and velocity pairs that he’s shown so far, physics and probability will take over and bless him with numbers close to what he’s had. Of course there’s more to hitting than focusing on launch angles and velocities of batted balls. They are just some positive end results of an effective swing. But I was pointing out that by saying you don’t believe in his BABIP or his ISO then you are saying that you don’t believe in his launch angles and velocities. If you don’t believe in his launch angles and velocities then I believe you should have explicitly said that, and not left the discussion in the more abstract setting of ISO and BABIP.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but one thing you seem to be saying is, “Judge isn’t likely to be the best player in baseball. There are over 600 other players in baseball, what are the chances he’s the best? It’s just not likely.” There is no merit to such an argument unless we just ignore the data and are trying to blindly determine where Judge’s results should fall. The main part of your argument is that his ISO and BABIP are too far out of line with that of other players. That argument is valid, but what I pointed out is that you are tacitly assuming a relationship close to linear in exit velocity/launch angle versus BABIP and ISO. I think the chart I showed suggests that at least for exit velocity the relationship is not linear. You get an explosion in the range from 95 to 106 MPH. I am not saying that Judge will maintain his current hitting profile. I have no idea how stable such a thing is. What I am saying is that you have not given a reason why you think he can’t maintain it. There is a plausible phenomenological reason that Judge’s ISO and BABIP might deserve to be outliers. It’s that his size and strength are outliers as well. And not only is he stronger than Stanton, but his swing seems to be more efficient as well. Maybe he can’t maintain that, but why can’t he other than the fact that it would make him one of the best players in the game if he did?

As for Sanchez, an analysis of Sanchez’s hitting last year shows it is quite different from Judge’s this year.

Fan gaff
Member
Fan gaff

Aaron Judge has had 1/2 of a great season, but how many times have we seen this. He will hit around .220 next season w/ a 290 OBP. The entire season. So trade him now while he is on the list.

Joey Butts
Member
Joey Butts

How many times HAVE we seen this?

Fan gaff
Member
Fan gaff

Pablo Sandoval, Andre Either, Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, Yasiel Puig, Jason Heyward, Carl Crawford, Joe Mauer…Jose Rameriez, Trea Turner just a couple examples from this year. One great half season. This happens quite often look at “dead-money” contracts. lets see how they do next season.

dumb question btw, were you hoping to stump me? you could of googled this yourself.

Zach Walters Appreciation Guild
Member
Zach Walters Appreciation Guild

Nope, not allowed to do Jose Ramirez and Trea Turner like that.

Why? Because they haven’t been doing it a half season. Jose Ramirez has been *gold* for ayear and a half at this point, and Trea Turner is pretty far from a .220/.290/.???, even if he’s below 100 wRC+.

Lord, I didn’t expect to be saying ‘you’re giving Judge too hard a time here’ in the comments of *this* article.

Fan gaff
Member
Fan gaff

like what? just stats. The league and player need 2+ seasons to make adjustments back and forth. just look at the #1 on this list 2015, 2016, and now this year. perfect example of the time it takes for adjustments to be made back and forth multiple times. That cannot happen in a half season, so if Turner is unable to “match the curve” he won’t be great.

Joey Butts
Member
Joey Butts

Pablo Sandoval: He had one supernatural June in 2009, but his first half was not close to what Judge has done. Technically, he also was not a rookie at the time.
Andre Ethier: His first half in 2006 was not exactly exceptional, nor was his power.
Jason Bay: His 151 wRC+ in 2003 is a far cry from Judge’s 197.
Josh Hamilton: In 2010, his 4th season, he put up a 166 wRC+ in the first half, which is sorta comparable to Judge. Then he put up a 190 wRC+ in the second half.
BJ Upton: His 150 wRC+ in the first half of 2007, his THIRD year, is a far cry from Judge’s 197.
Yasiel Puig: Decent example. 170 wRC+ and .208 ISO in his first 333 PA. Sort of in Judge’s ballpark.
Jason Heyward: When has he ever produced like Aaron Judge’s first half? I couldn’t find anything remotely comparable.
Carl Crawford: What, 2010? His freaking NINTH season? That can’t possibly be what you mean.
Joe Mauer: 157 wRC+ in the 1st half of 2006, but with a .157 ISO. 179 wRC+, .249 ISO in 1st half of 2009, but it was his sixth season.

Are ANY of these players worthwhile comparisons?

Joey Butts
Member
Joey Butts

“you could of googled this yourself.” If you’re going to go by the insufferable user name of “Fan gaff”, you should probably double check your comments for grammar mistakes.

Thrasius
Member
Member
Thrasius

I ran Judge through a few xBABIP calculators. He’s generally in the 365-375 range. Surprised no one did that in this thread. That seems reasonable. That would be just above Votto/Trout. Those are just the first two that come to mind. So it’s not unreasonable to think Judge’s true talent could be high 300s BABIP, just not 400+.

Corey2
Member
Corey2

Thanks for doing that! While your xbabip calculators show that Judge’s babip has only been a little fluky. I have a hard time believing his true talent is .365+ babip. Just because he has been hitting the ball that hard doesn’t mean he’ll continue to hit the ball that hard. The 30% k rate tells me that there are holes ready to contribute to more softly hit balls. I suppose it’s not out of the question in this case that Judge mishitting a ball still looks like anyone else hitting one solid though. I’ll go with the under on a .350 babip for Judge rest of the way.

Thrasius
Member
Member
Thrasius

Oh I actually agree with you. I’m just saying it’s not unreasonable to think his true talent could be 365+. That would be elite, best in the game. However, that’s the likely ceiling, not 400+.